Does your business make sales online or via email? If so new rules coming into force today mean you need to update your website to include a link to the European Online Dispute Resolution Platform (ODR Platform).
What is the ODR Platform?
Although e-commerce is the world’s fastest growing market, it still largely operates by reference to national territories with few consumer transactions taking place cross-border. The EU identified the lack of an efficient method of resolving cross-border disputes as a barrier to increasing cross-border online trading. In response, it has developed the ODR Platform to provide a mechanism for consumers and traders to settle disputes relating to goods or services bought online quickly and easily using an ‘alternative dispute resolution’ (ADR) procedure.
How will it work?
The ODR Platform is an interactive, multilingual service which aims to help consumers achieve a speedy and efficient resolution to a dispute, without the need for lengthy or costly court proceedings.
According to the European Commission’s ODR factsheet there will be a four stage process for resolving complaints via the ODR Platform:
- The consumer fills in and submits an online complaint form
- The complaint is sent to the relevant trader, who proposes an ADR entity to the consumer (each EU member state has a national list of approved ADR bodies)
- Once the consumer and the trader agree on an ADR entity to handle their dispute, the ODR platform automatically transfers the complaint to that entity
- The ADR entity handles the case entirely online and reaches an outcome in 90 days
Who does it apply to?
Any business which sells goods or services online will need to ensure it complies with the requirements relating to the ODR Platform. The reference to selling ‘online’ is widely interpreted here: businesses which enter into sales contracts or provide terms and conditions of business via email will be subject to the new requirements, even if they don’t have a website from which consumers make purchases directly.
Note also that the ODR Platform can be used to settle disputes in relation to domestic purchases of online goods or services – it is not limited to cross-border transactions.
What do online traders need to do?
From Monday 15 February every online trader must provide an electronic link to the ODR Platform from their website, even if they don’t currently market goods or services to consumers based in other (non-UK) EU member states. Online traders must also ensure their websites provide their own contact email address. General terms and conditions of business relating to online sales should also be updated to include this information.